“My Friend and Fellow Servant: The Example of Luan Felix da Silva,” Liahona, Sept. 2002, 14
Whenever I think of the Savior’s parable of the sheep and the goats and of His wonderful promises to those who serve Him (see Matt. 25:31–46), I picture a young boy named Luan.
I first met Luan in February 2001 at a Young Men camp in Recife, Brazil. In Brazil, it was the time of Carnival—a holiday that has become four days of unruly partying. During Carnival, stakes often hold youth conferences and camps to give Latter-day Saint youth a fun and wholesome alternative. In my assignment as President of the Brazil North Area, I was visiting one such Young Men camp in the Recife Brazil Boa Viagem Stake.
When I first saw Luan, I noticed that he was quite thin and did not have even a single hair on his head. I also noticed that he had many friends. And I learned that he had just turned 12 and was going to be ordained a deacon during the camp.
I also learned that Luan had bone cancer in his left leg. In fact, just before camp he had learned that the cancer was progressing so rapidly his leg needed to be amputated immediately. But because Luan wanted so badly to receive the Aaronic Priesthood at camp and to play soccer with his friends one last time, his doctor had agreed to postpone the surgery for a week.
Now, surrounded by his brothers in the Church, Luan literally beamed with happiness. After his priesthood ordination on Sunday, Luan bore a beautiful testimony about his faith in the gospel and his gratitude for the Savior’s love.
I approached Luan, and we became fast friends. After his surgery, I visited him in his home, along with his bishop, Ozani Farias, and his stake president, Mozart B. Soares. These good leaders were a blessing in Luan’s life. They were always there to comfort, support, and help him.
I felt the Spirit very strongly in Luan’s home. Luan, along with his mother and sisters, had joined the Church eight months earlier. There was no father in the home, and Luan’s mother worked hard to provide for the family. Their small house was tidy and clean, and I knew that simple home sheltered a very special family.
During our visit, we noticed that the family lacked many basic things. For example, Luan had to sleep on an uncomfortable couch because he had no bed. But when we asked what the family needed, they replied, “We have the gospel, our friends at church, and a happy family. Thank you, but we need nothing else.”
A short time after our visit, Luan’s condition worsened, and his doctors found a large tumor at the base of his spinal cord. It could not be removed surgically, so Luan went to the hospital for another round of chemotherapy.
One night when President Soares and I visited Luan in the hospital, we found him in a lot of pain. He asked us several questions, including “What is death?” and “What is dying like?”
I explained that dying is part of eternity and that death is not a closing door but a door that opens for us as we go back to the presence of God. Luan understood and smiled. He said that now he was prepared. Then he asked us to give him a blessing, and we did so.
In the bed next to Luan was a 14-year-old boy named Pedro. Now Pedro asked us to bless him too. I asked if he had faith in Jesus Christ, and he said he did. We explained what the priesthood is and that we would be blessing him in the name of Jesus Christ. He closed his eyes and smiled as we blessed him. Next an 18-year-old young woman asked us to give her a blessing too.
I found out that Luan and his mother had comforted Pedro and many of the other young cancer patients and their parents. As I left the hospital that night, I was edified to see that Luan and his mother, though suffering themselves, found the strength to visit others and minister to their needs.
When President Soares asked Luan what he would like to do when he left the hospital, Luan said he would like to perform vicarious baptisms in the Recife Brazil Temple. After Luan left the hospital, President Soares and Bishop Farias helped him fulfill this desire. Luan performed as many baptisms as his strength would allow. At the end of his day at the temple, he was beaming with happiness that he could do something for others, even though he was in great pain himself.
Luan Felix da Silva died on 20 August 2001. Whenever I think of my friend and fellow servant, I am reminded of the Savior’s words:
“Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you … :
“For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
“Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me. …
“And the King shall … say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matt. 25:34–36, 40).